Investigating Parkinson’s through the lens of autophagy - ASAP grant for Sascha Martens
The Aligning Science Across Parkinson’s Initiative (ASAP) has awarded a grant to Sascha Martens’ group and scientists from the University of Pennsylvania, Monash University and MPI for Biophysics in Frankfurt. The project is coordinated by James Hurley from the University of California Berkeley. The project is endowed with USD 7.000.000 and will reveal the mechanisms of mitophagy and its involvement in Parkinson’s Disease.
Autophagy: the beginning of the end
Autophagy, from the Greek for ‘self-eating’, is an essential process that isolates and recycles cellular components under conditions of stress or when resources are limited. Cargoes such as misfolded proteins or damaged organelles are captured in a double membrane-bound compartment called the autophagosome and targeted for degradation. A fundamental question concerns precisely how these “garbage bags” form in the cell. Scientists led by Sascha Martens from the Max Perutz Labs, a joint venture of the University of Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna, have now reconstructed the first steps in the formation of autophagosomes. They show that tiny vesicles loaded with the protein Atg9 act as the seed from which the autophagosome emerges. The study is published in Science.
Calcium causes stiff joints in ɑ-actinin
The group of Kristina Djinovic-Carugo has revealed the molecular structure of a calcium-regulated form of the protein α-actinin, and has elucidated the mechanism of how calcium binds and regulates it. In α-actinin from the parasite E. histolytica, calcium binding triggers an increase in protein rigidity, which impairs its ability to bundle actin filaments. The study is published in PNAS and could help understand calcium regulation in human forms of α-actinin. The mechanism may also provide guidance for the development of novel therapeutics to treat amoebic dysentery caused by E. histolytica that threatens millions of people in developing countries every year.
Detective work in the cell: Scientists uncover a new RNA-modifying enzyme
Scientists led by Javier Martinez from the Max Perutz Labs, a joint venture of the Medical University of Vienna and the University of Vienna, have identified a unique chemical reaction at the end of RNA molecules for the first time in human cells. This reaction was previously only observed in bacteria and viruses. Tracing its source among thousands of proteins, they discovered that an unexpected culprit, an enzyme called ANGEL2, executes this reaction. ANGEL2 may play a key role in regulating the response to cellular stress, and possibly in the pathogenesis of neurodegenerative and metabolic diseases. The study is published in “Science”.
Sascha Martens elected EMBO member: “I’m looking forward to helping support young scientists”
The EMBO (European Molecular Biology Organization) membership honours distinguished scientists who have made outstanding contributions in the field of the life sciences. Members can actively participate in EMBO’s initiatives by serving on the organisation's Council, committees and editorial boards, participating in the evaluation of applications for funding, and by acting as mentors for young scientists.
Three DOC fellowships for Max Perutz Labs students
Konstantina Georgiou, Sara Scinicariello, and Ameya Rakesh Khandekar have been awarded DOC fellowships by the Austrian Academy of Sciences (ÖAW) that will support their PhD projects, which focus on genome organization, protein degradation, and RNA biology respectively.
Cep97: a stabilizing protein roof for centrioles
The proposed function of the centriolar protein Cep97 has to be revised, a new study from the Dammerman lab shows. Rather than just limiting centriole elongation, Cep97 forms a protective roof that ensures that centrioles maintain their correct size once the proper length is reached. The findings are published in “Current Biology” and could help explain how centrioles maintain their size and stability through multiple cell divisions, often throughout the entire lifetime of an organism.
A “DEEP-Clear” view of nervous system diversity
Researchers from the lab of Florian Raible at the Max Perutz Labs and their collaborators have developed an improved tissue clearing and depigmentation method that will help scientists to apply advanced microscopy methods to larger model organisms. The approach, termed “DEEP-Clear” and published in the journal Science Advances, is expected to improve scientists’ ability to study and visualize the whole nervous systems of many different species.
Happy - virtual - birthday, Max Perutz!
Birthdays should be celebrated, even in challenging times. Last year marked the inaugural celebration of the birthday of Max Perutz, the man who gave the Perutz Labs its name. Unfortunately, preparations for this year´s Max Perutz Day on May 19th were put on ice due to COVID-19. Nevertheless, we did not want this day to pass without celebrating a “virtual Max Perutz Day 2020” online with an outstanding keynote speaker: Jan Löwe, director of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge. Jan shared his personal memories of Max Perutz and talked about his own research in the field of structural biology.
“Reverse engineering” autophagosome biogenesis reveals new protein interactions
Scientists from Sascha Martens Lab at the Max Perutz Labs and their colleagues from the University of Berkeley (USA) have reconstituted the activity of key proteins involved in the growth of autophagosome precursors, a process essential for encapsulating cellular components targeted for degradation and recycling. Their results reveal a previously unknown positive feedback loop and activation mechanism that help explain how the autophagy machinery rapidly generates the autophagosomal membrane. The study is published in the Journal of Cell Biology.
Alwin Köhler appointed as Scientific Director
On March, 21st, 2020, Alwin Köhler was announced as the new Director of the Max Perutz Labs Vienna. He holds a joint Professorship for Molecular Biology at the University of Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna.
A Broad Alliance of Viennese Scientists builds COVID-19 Testing Infrastructure
The COVID-19 pandemic poses an enormous threat for healthcare systems and economies in Austria, Europe and the world. In this time of crisis, scientists in Vienna are responding to the threat. 20 research institutions have joined forces to form the Vienna COVID-19 Detection Initiative (VCDI). This initiative is now putting a new diagnostics pipeline into operation. The VCDI is also developing a range of high-throughput tests to better understand and combat the virus.